Many people mistakenly believe that simply using any old proxy server will help protect their data and privacy online. Unfortunately this is far from the truth and the reality is that there is a big difference between many proxies with regards security. In reality using using something like a free proxy server is a huge risk and one that is more likely to risk your data rather than protect it.
Now the truth is that choosing the right sort of proxy to use is heavily dependent on what you’re trying to achieve. Many activities focus on the target web site therefore involve heavily on how the proxy communicates for the last leg of the connection. So if you’re trying to manage and promote multiple social accounts using something like this Jarvee trial with Instagram then it’s the IP address, location and transparency of the proxy which is important. A super secure proxy is not as important as having addresses which are residential or at least not blacklisted by the particular social network.
If you’re using proxies for buying from e-commerce stores such as Ticketmaster or a sneaker site then speed, location and the ability to handle SSL transactions efficiently will be crucial. Most of the sneaker bots for example are designed to work fast and a slow or remote proxy will essentially defeat the object of using one. So if you are using a secure proxy based in Australia then there’s going to be significant latency routing through to Nike’s servers in the US.
For most commercial and marketing purposes you’ll generally need a proxy designed for a specific purpose. For example if you browse through the services of one of the oldest providers Storm Proxies, they you’ll find they split them into different categories. They actually have Instagram proxies, Ticketmaster proxies, non-transparent proxy servers and many more all configured to work with each platform. The most important components to these proxies is the IP address and the location, so you should try and use them only for their specific purposes.
What is the Best Type of Anonymous Proxy Service for Privacy and Anonymity?
Although proxies are perfect for shielding your identity from the websites you visit, they certainly don’t protect your privacy to the same extent. There are two main privacy issues that a standard proxy doesn’t cover:
- Interception of Data – the majority of your web traffic is transmitted in clear text over shared hardware.
- ISP Logging – all data is first routed through an internet gateway before it reaches the proxy.
Neither of these issues is adequately referenced with standard proxies. Even those designed to hide your identity to social networking sites for example, partly because their primary aim is to mimic and impersonate standard users. However you will actually have very little true anonymity without dealing with these two issue.
For example, if you want to keep your web browsing private then there’s one crucial point to protect. Within your ISP are logs and records of everything you do online.
Here’s a couple of example lines from last night’s browsing where I was looking for informative articles at a well know men’s entertainment site –
Source Destination Protocol Info
192.168.1.32 xxx.1×3.137.20 HTTP GET /RealMedia/ads/adstream_mjx.ads/www.playboy.com/index.html/ HTTP/1.1
192.168.1.32 xxx.1×3.137.3 HTTP GET /http://pei-ads.playboy.com/RealMedia/ads/click_lx.ads/www.playboy.com/index.html HTTP/1.1
Basically every HTTP request is logged, including the time and the destination address. Every time you visit a site, send an email, download a file or view a picture a record is made. Every single network connection is logged as it passes through the internet gateway of whichever ISP you are using. This is actually even reported when using a basic proxy although the request will be forwarded through the proxy server first.
It’s not the only place this data is accessible from, but your ISO logs are certainly the simplest and most comprehensive source. This is where governments and security services look first to see what people have been doing online, although they can also check in lots of other places including the search engines. The problem is that the majority of transactions using the internet is that they are conducted in clear text and routed through a single point – your internet gateway. If you’re using a home connection that’s usually run by your ISP but the data is equally accessible when you connect through the Wifi at your local coffee shop or at the airport.
It also highlight another vulnerability with using the internet, it’s effectively a giant network run over shared hardware. No one runs or secure’s the network bridges, hubs and routers that forward all our data. So in theory it can easily be intercepted as long as you have access to one of the crucial points where data passes. The very famous example is that of the infamous Room 641A in San Francisco where the NSA built a special network monitoring lab at the AT&T internet switching centre. Basically this was a single point at the US internet backbone and hence where a large part of US internet traffic flowed through.
So What’s the Solution?
A well configured and secure proxy does give us some semblance of privacy online but only as far as the web sites we visit. If you want proper anonymity and some real protection then you need something to protect your data. The most practical solution is to use a level of encryption. This ensures that your data is not visible even if it is intercepted plus the destination IPs (e.g the websites you visit) cannot be seen to.
Here’s an example of what’s visible in the ISP logs for instance –
Source Destination Protocol Info
192.168.1.2 Proxy IP Address SSL Continuation Data
You won’t see the data, just the IP address of the intermediate server plus the notification that the data is encrypted. The addition of encryption means that the only thing that is visible is the address of the proxy server. These connections are commonly known as VPN (virtual private networks) – basically an encrypted proxy
The examples above were taken from a proxy/VPN service called Identity Cloaker. It manages your connection to a network of highly secure proxy servers and encrypts all the data using the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). It’s about the highest level of security you can get online and offers anonymity out of the box. It’s little use for managing social network accounts or buying sneakers though as the majority of IP addresses are commercial ones and shared with other users.
Technical Addendum – Log of Proxy Connection
It should be noted from anyone with a technical eye that the above log referencing continuation data whilst using Identity Cloaker identifies the data as using SSL. This is in fact incorrect as the program uses SSH (Secure Shell) to make the VPN connection to the best proxy server. However it also uses port 443 as the default instead of the standard port for SSH which is 22. Which is why the traffic is incorrectly identified as being SSL by the packet analyzer used.
This is because port 443 is much less likely to be dropped in corporate or educational environments as it allows access to secure websites. It also further obscures your internet connection from analysis. You can change which port Identity Cloaker uses but this is usually only relevant for advanced users.